tv The Stream Al Jazeera March 9, 2014 12:30pm-1:01pm EDT
thanks so much for watching al jazeera america. i'm morgan radford live in new york. ""the stream"" next. remember, for news updates throughout the day head to our website, aljazeera.com. >> hi i'm leem lmp an lisa fletcher and you're in the stream. is there a trend towards poverty in the nation's armed forces? >> our digital producer, wajahat ali is here. he's bringing in all your live
comments throughout the show. regardless of politics, there seems to be something wrong when the men and women who serving our country are hovering near poverty. >> the unique challenges that military families are facing. facebook, lots of sad stories. nancy writes, i was a military wife and we struggled just to keep things going. with coupons we were okay. we never could get food stamp help. >> when my husband was in the military wasn't even $1500 a month. we hardly had enough to buy food let alone diapers and stuff. there is some snark. i still don't know why people
who serve should be treated like gods. the same as anybody in the middle class who are trying to get by. i don't think, lisa,men is treating them like gods. >> the national defense agency says, $150 million of food stamps were redeemed. why does that matter? well the usda says 2,000 active duty members got food stamp benefits in 2012. the average beneficiary gets about $115 a year. that should provide food stamps for 75,000 active former military and their families. but accounts show only recipients.
if the usda and department of defense don't keep detailed records how can they possibly evaluate their system? joining us to help make sense of those numbers is debra brad bard. brandon archuleta, kevin stern, an air force veteran who has written on this topic who is skeptical on this item, and susan, she and her family have relied on food stamps. welcome to all of you. so debra, is the middle class way of life that people associate the military provided for decades on its way out? >> i don't knowists on its way out, but esee a -- we see a differential between those who
join as service members and those who join as officers. your base salary, e-1 is about $20,000. and you see an officer coming in at about $40,000. so when you talk about these issues such as poverty and food stamps there is this pay differential that you see. you see somebody who is making $20,000 and has 2.pief children, that doesn't -- 2.5 children that doesn't go very far. so you can see there's some struggles there. >> indeed. susan, the numbers that we referenced getting into the show are incomplete as best because that's all that's available. but they certainly indicate that more military families could be hovering around the poverty line. is there an untold story here in your opinion? >> i think there definitely is. i think the biggest problem is at a anybody receiving welfare in general usually feels a lot of shame, a
lot of guilt. the fact that they are receiving it period isn't something they want to share. when it comes to the military it definitely carries a higher amount of that. we received them from about six months after he got here in tucson to about, for about two and a half years continuing from that. and the reason you know when we would go into do any kind of paperwork or anything like that, we were almost looked at to the point of why are you here? you should make enough money. and it was that way until they decided to stop -- or decided to start surrounding our house an allowance of income. >> the community is in conversation here. growing families and reduced focus on vets equals increased need for assistance, #military.
you are taken out of context. the average of $1500 a month housing allowance plus 200 and $ $400 allowance plus medical. conflicting numbers, $1 three '03 of food -- $103 million of food stamps. what's happening hear? are these families really in need, is it increasing, is it getting worse so far for them? >> all the guesses are right so far, debra and susan, since 2006 we saw the numbers quadruple, redeeming of snap benefits. what this is frequenting in part -- reflecting in part is the changing to all volunteer force. the sociologist engineers are coming in a little bit more experience,
a little bit more seasoned, maybe making a career change. the financial crisis was tough, and they see long term stability in the military lifestyle, they're making a transition in the mid to late 20s. where our prototypical soldier is right out of school without a family. >> you are skeptical of this being problematic. why-so? >> well, you know we only talk low. and it's true, the base pay is low. but in typically military members are given things such as baf and bah, this is you know money to pay for housing and food and stuff hike that. and you take that -- like that. you take that into consideration, it actually raises you know what a military
member would be making. >> susan, does it raise it enough to make it easy to make ends meet? >> no. i have -- i don't have a problem of sharing this because quite honestly public information that's easy to find. my husband's base housing for every month now is $1062. since we reside in on-base housing we don't actually see any of that. we don't have any extra cost as of now. the d od did implement a system to implement electricity usage, based on their average they picked up checking houses and see what we should be using. and bas is a supplement to cover my husband's getting fed since he is not eating at the chow hall and that's $357 a month.
so you break it down, i mean, it's not really making enough of an impact. honestly. >> susan our community is chiming in about who to blame about this financial insecurity. lisa, is it the military, is it overspending? chris says the problem is, the people use the military as a welfare system. politics, lousy left versus right, they back stab soldiers by cutting benefits and gil says it's the weak competent which doesn't help anyone. debra who is it to blame? >> i'd like to make a couple of points about what the last guest said. i think it's important to note that some of these benefits there are there for a reason. they are there for retention and recruitment. and we want to get the best people in the military. we want the best people to stay in the military. somebody mentioned health care. one of the reasons why we have a
good health care system in the military is because we need to have a ready force. we need healthy service members and so that is why we have the health care system that we do. another tbes -- guest mentioned baf. >> basic sustenance, food. >> those numbers are relow. when you look at an average family of 2.5 kids, the average expenditure for food is about eight to $900 per month. if you look at an e-1 who is making $20,000, even with that baf added in, even if you have housing added in, if youer spending eight to $-- you are spending eight to $900 a month that's on the low end. >> we reached out to both the defense. the usda said it would provide additional data, which we did
not receive before we went to air. they promised to get us those numbers in the next 24 hours so we'll post them when we get them. nathan christianson was not able to be on tonight. he posted, this has allowed the department to succeed in recruiting and retaij the all -- retaining the all volunteer force. nathan was talking to my assistant and in january of this year, they are starting to keep track of who is using these food stamps at the commissary. putting food on the table isn't the only challenge facing military families. you. for example, military spouses are unemployed at a rate more than four times the national average. facebook.
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>> it is a definitely. i think the biggest problem that we face specifically is childcare. i know that's a exon concern. you know i -- a common concern. i have about six years of retail experience, after that management and i've never made more than $8.25 an hour. if i was to take that full time i would actually pay more out of pocket to work 40 hours a week including childcare than i would to stay home. it's hard to continue post-secondary education because you never know if you're going to move. schools are, they change how they transfer credits, if it's actually going to be worth anything, you have to transfer, repeat classes which i've already had to do. >> military families move around a lot. is that something that military shies away from, we don't want to spend anything on you if you
are going to move in 18 months. >> definitely. even i have trouble putting in many applications to just part time retail just bringing in a little bit of extra money. the first things thing -- the first thing they address is schedule. if he changes his schedule or has to work nights or weekends, there's nothing i can do about that. that's the big stopper. >> lisa, i learned a lot, we have a lot of military spouses who are tweeting in and sending in great comment. anna maria says, this is a two-income economy. many of my fellow military spices, this military spouse says i don't work because i cannot rely on an significant other to help wit with the kids when i work nights. it's the constant moving, spouse not being able to start a career, military spouse on multiple redeployments is hard.
chelsea here: >> the struggle i face as a military rice is a constantly-- wife is continue. >> you are a military wife, tell us what the public never hears about. >> what we hear on our survey, the survey of military families, last year we had about 5100 respondents, we're talking about a big response size, they echo what you're saying here. uncertainty in military life, childcare, poofs, these are things -- moves, these are things that affect spouse employment. especially if you are at the low end of these pay grades and you need that second income to make ends meet. if your spouse is not employed you talk about the 30%
unemployment rate among military spouses, that compares to about an 8% unemployment rate among normal civilians as a whole. so you know it's a much higher rate. and you know that has an impact on what families have had in their pocket books. >> kevin, there's a disproportionate amount of credit card debt, military families more than 27,000 in debt is 27% compared to 16% in the civilian population. is this an issue of financial literacy or a consequence of one spouse working in what should be a two-spouse working household? to what do you attribute this? >> i think you can definitely -- you're kind of hitting the nail on the head. in this day and age, you do need both spouses working. you can't really depend on one income anymore. and this isn't just military, you know, this is in the civilian world also. so i can definitely see how you
know the moving around would make it harder for spouses to find jobs so you don't have that second income readily available. but you know this is -- this isn't just military. this is the civilian world, too. as far as debt goes, i know it is real hard -- it is real easy to get loans in the military because the banks know that you have that steady income. if you have a four year contract you know they know that you're making as much you know for -- a set amount of time so it's real easy for them to give out loans. whatever i wanted, i wanted a car loan they were real quick to give that to me so that could be part of the problem with the debt. >> lisa if i may jump in for a moment and echo kevin's sentiment here. part of the problem with debt is that some of this money is too much available, too available to service members. in terms of predatory lending.
there are a lot of payday lenders out there and every state's policies differ on this issue. but who seek out the military, and service members who are young impressionable and looking to make a major purchase, a car perhaps or something of the sort and they'll record all the service members' information beyond the personal but the professional. but they will look to that chain of command to leverage pressure on the service member. time. and it's a real problem. >> brandon you know a lot of our communities child in about the -- child in about the proposed spending bill. dod department of defense seems to budget for the military industrial complex rather than the men and women who do the fighting in the cold. cutting them and other benefits.
maria, says maybe it should be a requirement for one to serve in the military before serving in the congress. what effect do you think it will have on military families? >> one of the things that's happening now there's always a lot of uncertainty in military life and people come accustomed to that. now you have a lot of things changing at once and all of them having financial implications. so you have potential changes in the commissary benefit. >> a billion-dollar potential changes. >> they're not potential changes, they're changes now, now that the budget's been approved. you have changes in hearkd health care changes. possibility. >> and broader economic impact as well, doesn't it? >> i imagine it will. >> all right coming up that defense spending bill looks to
your global news leader ♪ ♪ >> welcome back. we're talking about the myriad of challenges financially that military families face and waj, before the break we talked about those challenges don't end when services. >> what are the challenges, our community is tweeting in. france is saying, there aren't many jobs to transition into. there are a lot of homeless vets throughout the country. i'm so frustrated how we treat
our military, they deserve decent pay. my husband has been out for eight months, two degrees and still no real job. as a young airman with a real family, i was fortunate to find part time jobs, short order cooking, pumping gas, whatever to make ends meet. transitioning out of the military, what are some of the unique challenges that he's looking forward to transitioning from military to civilian life, have you guys thought about this yet? >> the uncertainty that was brought up earlier, we always have uncertainty especially with the budget, health care changing all those things. it really made us think about it. and what he does, he is a jet engine mechanic that's in pretty high demand, especially with the experience he has, the heinzin
heinzing -- licensing and everything, we put feelers out there just what he could find. even with all of that, training and experience there were still many times where they had no openings, regardless. so it was very, very -- that's pretty much made our decision, we don't have a decision other than to stay in. >> brandon, earlier on in the show susan alluded to the fact that it was difficult, maybe more difficult for members of the military to ask for help because they're having to go to their co and it can feel shameful and you can feel compromised by doing that. so even though you have these programs available to folks in the military for assistance, do you find that it's harder for them maybe to seek you out and get that help? >> well, i think it often can be shameful for some of these soldiers and their families. like any family who is having financial trouble the topic is often delicate and stressful
just within their family. and so to air your financial issues to a chain of command and ask for help can be daunting and stigmatizing which is unfortunate. the army and the military in general have a strong safety net and we do whatever we can to provide for soldiers in need to protect them from some of the predatory henders out there and the -- lenders out there and the crippling financial debt which might face them. my wife is a veteran. she was an army officer and transitioned out. working with the va and getting the job fairs and interviews it can be overwhelming. >> waj and i were talking about this yesterday. we both feel like we've been seeing more commercial and hearing more radio spots with this corporate backing of veterans. pushing to hire veterans. focusing on their vast array of
ability in the workforce. are you noticing more of that as well and is it making any sort of a measurable difference? >> yes, a lot of companies are recognizing the value of hiring veterans and what they bring to the workplace. the same for military spouses, there is a movement to hire military spouses. and i think when service members are in the military they learn leadership skills, they learn how to use teamwork, these are assets in the business environment so i think companies are starting to see that and they're starting to see the value of hiring veterans. and at the same time, military spouses bring some of those things to the workplace as well. and we have companies like usaa is a great example. their whole mission is focused on the military family. but they also have a hiring mission. they hire veterans. they hire military spouses.
and would i say a best practice in that. >> susan, we've got about a minute left in the show i want you to wrap it up. give us your thoughts on what it's going to take to bring the stability of middle chas sort of back to the military family -- class sort of back to the military family. >> i think the majority of the public stands behind the military stands behind providing them with a fair income. i think there are some people that don't. the biggest thing i could say to anybody, this isn't normal career, this is not normal life. we are okay with the everyday sacrifices. all we ask things are not taken away and it gets much harder for us to live. the u.s. say we spend eight to 900 a month on groceries. i don't spend near to that. we have three children with a fourth on the way.
all i ask is they not be taken away. >> that's all the time we have. good afternoon to you, and welcome to al jazeera america. i'm morgan radford live in new york city. here are the stories we're following right now. taking sides in crimea. a standoff between pro and anti-russian forces. investigators may have discovered new clues in the disappearance of the malaysian airliner. it's been seven years since an american cia operative disappeared in iran, and al jazeera america talked to his wife about the ongoing ordeal. kenyan children turn to raci